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Southern WV-based Pinnacle Mining Company to idle operations

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Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. announced June 25 that it intends to idle its Pinnacle Mining Company operations for up to six months.

In a regulatory filing, Cliffs said that it issued a notice to employees of Pinnacle Mining, which is located in southern West Virginia, the United Mine Workers of America as well as state and local government agencies that the company expects to halt operations due to poor current market conditions for metallurgical coal.

"The persistent depressed pricing and oversupply in the metallurgical coal market for the past year has put cost pressures on the business. Pricing is below the mine’s cash costs and at a point where it is becoming uneconomical to operate at these levels," said Ryan Thorn, a spokesman for the company. "Cliffs’ senior leadership team will monitor industry and business conditions over the next two months. If market dynamics do not improve, we will temporarily idle operations at Pinnacle mine beginning on or around Aug. 25, 2014."

Pinnacle is wholly owned by Cliffs, which owns and operates four metallurgical coal operations in West Virginia and Alabama, as well as one thermal coal mine in West Virginia. The Pinnacle Complex includes the Pinnacle mine, which has produced between 0.7 million and 2.8 million tons of coal annually since 1969, and the Green Ridge mine. In January 2012, the Green Ridge No. 2 mine was idled, according to the company’s annual report published in February 2014.

In 2013, the company sold a total of 7.3 million tons of coal — an increase from 2012, when it sold 6.5 million tons, according to the annual report.

Cliffs, based in Cleveland, is a global iron ore producer and a significant producer of high- and low-volatile metallurgical coal. The company operates iron ore and coal mines in North America and an iron ore mining complex in Western Australia.